A Tale of Two Cities Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

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Regarding the scene in which the residents of Saint Antoine scurry after the spilling wine, what does the behavior of the residents suggest about them? A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens Book the First, Chapter V

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In much the same manner as John Steinbeck uses intercalary chapters in The Grapes of Wrath, Charles Dickens employs Chapter V of Book the First of A Tale of Two Cities almost as an intercalary chapter. For, in this chapter Charles Dickens employs rhetorical and figurative devices in order to presage the bloodshed to come with the French Revolution.  And, just as Leo Tolstoy examines how certain forces come together to influence history, Dickens suggests that the forces of oppression and poverty and want will soon issue action.

The desperate scurrying of the residents of Saint-Antoine to absorb even the smallest drop of wine, suspending all their other actions, suggests, not only the hunger, but also the mob hysteria to come in the French Revolution. This mob action is also described as "a special companionship," a phrase that, too, presages the unity of hatred of the aristocracy which characterizes all the revolutionaries, the "Jacques." Their "cadaverous faces" denotes the people's starvation, while at the same time this description connotes the death faces of those who will be guillotined during the revolution and the Reign of Terror.  Dickens's mention of the "little roughness in the sport, and much playfulness" also foreshadows the cruelty in which the masses will soon engage and revel in as they cheer when he heads of the aristocrats fall into the baskets beneath the blade of the guillotine. Above all, with the unified and cruelly delighted action of the residents, the power of the mob is introduced as a motif that prevails throughout Dickens's novel.

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